This project seems to straddle so many different realms that it isn’t immediately obvious what kinds of outputs will result from it. I’m drawing upon linguistics, which has its own way of writing and analysing, art and cultural theory, which is… well, kind of ridiculous, mathematics education, anthropology… each has its own style and methodology.
And then there’s the creative practice. I found it incredibly easy to work from a recent research trip in the Welsh mountains, because I had a set of materials to work from with their own properties and aesthetic, as well as logics that suited them. If I treat a talk as a research trip in this way, then what I get out is: chalkboard, pale wood, diagrams, colour-coding, movements in space. It’s all a lot colder, but that’s probably OK.
As a side note, it looks like I’m going to the desert in June for a similar kind of research trip. The landscape there is different: red, orange, hot, cold, windy. Hard, dry and sharp. That’ll take some preparation, I think. (A featureless, scale-defying landscape – it’s all about scale – what’s the biggest thing i could make with materials I can carry on a plane?)
I’ve recently read some work that came very close to my initial intentions for this project, way back when. That’s a chapter in a book on mathematics education named Mathematics and the Body, and another written by an anthropologist (Kuechler) about knots in mathematics and art. Both are great and I’m going to write more extensively on them soon. What they do is pick apart the cultural context of certain forms in a way that I’m not all that confident doing, at least yet – it’s beautiful and illuminating. My initial interest was an anthropological one.
Since then, though, I’ve become less interested in the artefacts of the discipline than the way that it is (socially) constructed; rather than the discourse of exportable artefacts, the stuff that’s presentable to the outside (eg. the image of a knot, with some explanation), I’m looking at discourse within the discipline that takes place in languages that exclude the outsider, how people work together to generate mathematics. That’s interesting – that isn’t exactly what I thought I was doing. I seem to be asking whether the unexported is unexportable. It’s something I seem to be investigating by interpreting selected communicative events in terms of intentions and media, though I lack the common language. So back to Ranciere again (dammit)